After a lot of dillydallying the Punjab cabinet is very much in place now. Its members, mostly newcomers and fresh faces ready to shoulder the burden of governance, took oath last week amid some noticeable protest and go-Musharraf-go chants. Prompted by their senior colleagues in the centre, the PML (N) minister here too took oath by wearing black armbands as a mark of protest against President Musharraf and his remnants. As compared to them, PPP Ministers observed all the formalities quietly without lodging any protest.
The conduct of both parties on this occasion shows that their chemistry did not match so far. The PML (N) leadership has clung to the past firmly and is not ready to reconcile with President Musharraf and his legacies. Nawaz Sharif wants to clip the wings of President Musharraf sooner rather than later. But Zardari does not see any urgency in this regard.
The PML (N) members and ministers do not spare any moment at Musharraf-bashing, as we saw at the oath-taking ceremonies here in the city and in the Presidency. They are even in hurry to dismantle everything with Musharraf’s stamp on it. The PML (N) is also leading the attack against the Chaudhrys and is in the process of digging out all the ‘mess’ to expose them in the eyes of public.
As compared to the Leaguers, the PPP leadership talks about reconciliation, to some extent even with President Musharraf. Instead of looking in the past, the PPP leaders are more interested in future. They say we do not want to wreck the ship with any adventurism and hence are more cautious. They never indulged in Musharraf bashing or the people associated with him. We never found a word being uttered against the Chaudhrys from them. Both Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly enjoyed good equation so far. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, we learnt, asked Shujaat Hussain to vote for him. In the process he became first Prime Minister who took vote of confidence even from opposition.
As such we noticed that so far the chemistry of both parties hardly match with each other. Such differences in approach of both parties create doubts in the mind of people if the two could pull together for a longer period or we are heading for an early election, as predicted by Sheikh Rashid. This unlike mindedness also gives rise to suspicions if the judges would be restored within stipulated time; as if the PPP was still in hobnob with the Presidency.
On the contrary, both parties want the Establishment and other non-political forces out of politics. Zardari openly says he wants to change the system dominated by the Establishment. He cherishes such a judiciary, which never support a dictator or military general as happened in the past. But to achieve this end, both PML (N) and PPP would be required to play a long inning if they really want to insulate the non-political forces from the politics, especially Establishment, backed by military.
Meanwhile, coming back to the Punjab cabinet, most of its members are first-timers, though motivated and committed. The PPP is lucky this time. All the important departments fell in its lap. They included Finance and P&D, Irrigation, Health, Revenue. The pattern followed here is quite similar to what we saw in the centre where important ministries were given to PML (N) ministers.
Shahbaz Sharif is the only towering personality around. How Shahbaz handles this hybrid cabinet will be interesting for all his watchers. Some political circles say that it will be difficult for him to assert his authority in the presence of PPP ministers with their allegiance pledged somewhere else.
Some analysts and even ex-ministers think that in the cabinet the ministers from PPP are better than the lot inducted from PML (N). They claim that they seem to be more serious minded than their counterparts from PML (N).
The PPP is coming to power in the Punjab after a long break in which it lost a lot of turf to its rivals, PML (N) and PML (Q). Now with governments both in centre and province, it got an opportunity to make amends for the past. For this its ministers need to deliver to the masses and pass the spoils to its committed and dedicated workers. Again, the party elders will have to analyse as to why PPP lost in the Punjab. Why the sympathy factor did not work in the Punjab in favour of PPP and why it lost from places like Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad?
Courtesy: The Nation, 28/4/2008